Zero Days (Alex Gibney over)
American Honey
Loving
Gimme Danger — Long Live The Stooges
United States of Love
Collateral Damage

The Delivery Guy (Raznoschik)

Russia, 2013 | Andrey Stempkovsky
Donal Foreman checks in from Brooklyn to report on The Delivery Guy, in which pizza delivery guy Alex gets embroiled in a crime story in a Russia of rust, neglect, highways and fast food joints.

In the film industry, we talk about 'deliverables' (the finished movie) and 'end users' (viewers), but not so much about delivery itself. Instead we talk about movies 'on demand' — accessible instantly, delivery reduced to a rapid and wireless transfer of data. This is how I had the opportunity to see The Delivery Guy (Raznoschik), a film that takes as its protagonist the human embodiment of this fundamental stage of commercial trade.

It's a practice that, philosopher Alain Badiou has argued, art must defiantly separate itself from. Rather than 'circulate according to any pre-established network', it should be 'that which interrupts marketing, that which communicates nothing.' Communication as Badiou employs it here seems to be exactly what network providers are talking about when they extol the virtues of staying 'in touch', not to touch on anything in particular but simply to 'communicate', to keep the circuits flowing, to 'stay connected'. He calls it the Western imperative. He names as the 'only problem' the question of whether it can definitively be detached from the artistic imperative.

The Delivery Guy, to its credit, communicates very little — apart from narrating the empty shell of this circuitry itself. Alex, a pizza delivery guy, takes care of his ailing father in a world of diminishing prospects and soulless interactions. It's a Russia of rust, neglect, highways and fast food joints, with no clear way out. Into this sepia-graded banality, Stempkovsky introduces a classic crime genre proposition. Intercepting a package intended for an absent pizza customer, Alex is given the opportunity to carry out a gangland hit for a large sum of money. But rather than this payoff being, in archetypal fashion, his 'ticket out of here', it's instead his means to save his father, who will die of cancer without a costly operation. The way in which the subsequent murder is depicted makes clear its structural similarities to Alex's day job. Both are deliveries in a certain sense, commercial transactions for which Alex is merely a conduit, with no real stake in its cause or its effect. Murdering someone he has never met before for someone he will never meet — alienated labor in a very pure sense.

The American short Transaction (2005, Jacques Thelemaque) observes the interaction between a prostitute and her client with a very simple formal conceit: leading up to the actual service that is being paid for, the camera only allows us to see the client; afterwards, we only see the prostitute. Formalizing both the symmetry of the act and its hollow, bare existence — it's as if the two never really see each other, never really touch — Thelemaque also instrumentalizes the camera in this power dynamic, eschewing the grammar of the shot-reverse shot to place us inside the transaction, with a central and lengthy panning shot acting out the shift from one side of the sale to the other. With Transaction in mind, we can note this about The Delivery Guy: Stempkovsky's camera is always outside the transaction, an alternately dispassionate or foreboding observer, but what takes the place of Thelemaque's panning shot is the delivery guy himself. Alex is the vehicle of the transaction, neither the buyer, the seller nor the thing being sold; not a commodity in himself, just collateral damage in its circulation.

In addressing Stempkovsky's measured, patient style — full of lengthy master shots and an attention to real time processes (making a delivery, eating a meal) — it's tempting to situate the film amongst the cosmic visions of Tarkovksy, Sokurov or Tarr. Even accounting for the film's more sterile, less poetic tendencies — Stempkovsky's vistas, whether urban or rural, are always wintry, dumb and inert — one could argue its kinship with great European formalists such as Akerman or conceptual procedurals such as Police, Adjective (2009, Corneliu Porumboiu) and Bullet in the Head (2008, Jaime Rosales). Yet there is a narrative expediency here, a disinterest in texture, that seems to belie all of these comparisons. None of the above would deign to include a close-up of a text message or a news headline on a computer screen, artless cutaways that serve purely expositional ends. But Steven Soderbergh would... and The Delivery Guy also shares the steely and over-graded HD look of that director's recent arthouse efforts.

While it seems unlikely that Stempkovsky has an Erin Brockovich or Ocean's Eleven in him, his film shares with Soderbergh's 'small films' (Bubble, Magic Mike, The Girlfriend Experience) an adoption of a fairly rigorous and distanced style and an implicit, well-observed social critique — while at the same time clinging on to certain narrative tropes that are thoroughly status quo. In Magic Mike for example, we get both an account of how, as critic Michael Sicinski has put it, bodies are 'conditioned by monetary relations' — and a by-the-numbers romance and morality tale.

Stempkovsky is, in fairness, a little more restrained in his equivocation. Alex's potential love interest — the girlfriend of his obnoxious and odious cousin — remains a stubbornly hopeless prospect, and far from having Alex take the cash and run off into the sunset with the girl, Stempkovsky doesn't even allow him to consider it. But he does choose to plug the narrative and emotional aporia that is opened up by the film's central 'murder-delivery' with his troubled protagonist, nauseous with guilt, eventually confessing to the widow of the gangster he murdered. The repentant murderer — weak enough to carry out the act, but too decent to live with getting away with it — is a familiar trope. But in employing it here, Stempkovsky seems to be signifying an act of a different nature to what the rest of the film depicts; rather than a submissive, automated, transactional act, we have an individual, honest one.

Up until this point, the film's structure almost seemed to mirror, in microcosm, the two-handed theory of Deleuze's Cinema books, moving from a Movement Image (where acts have causes and effects) to, following the murder and payment for his father's operation, a Time Image where, as Deleuze put it, 'the link between man and the world is broken.' However, the introduction of this classic moral act is a 're-linking' that is effectively just a return to form, totally in keeping with the servile transactions that make up the rest of the film. Like his day job, like the murder, here is another delivery that Alex is the vehicle of without benefiting from — except this time he's delivered himself.

An intriguing subplot in the film suggests that Alex's aggressively impulsive cousin may have carried out a much more passionate, irrational murder and, it seems, may very well get away with it. Viewed in context, is this an argument that poor Alex's moral conscience is out of place — and a positive handicap — in this heartless world, or rather that this particular form of conscience, itself a product of this world, is just one more mechanism for deferring Alex's own desires and keeping him in check? Admittedly, the film is reserved enough to allow for the possibility that Stempkovsky shares some of our skepticism. But this ambiguity serves a function too.

Critic Michael Sicinski has succinctly pegged Soderbergh as 'the paradigmatic auteur of economic neo-liberalism', a technician more than a poet, who exemplifies 'the unrootedness and lack of connection that the massive post-industrial shift in global economics has generated, in everyday life and all facets of culture.' Sicinski is talking here not just of Soderbergh's chosen subjects but his whole cinematic approach: 'The thing is sold, it moves, and it is essentially a blank. We can project transgressive tendencies, or conservative capitulation, onto that blank screen, because the important thing is that the commodity was assembled, shipped out, and consumed.'

Sicinski has since qualified that, yes, Soderbergh is 'indeed "a filmmaker within neoliberalism", but one with a set of deep critical insights regarding that system of exchange.' But he's also conceded such insights can, 'in keeping with neo-liberal branding', become 'another auteurist mark of excellence that can just as easily be ignored by those whose feathers it might ruffle in a more unassimilable context.'

What would Badiou say? Probably something like... 'Art can only be made today about what, for Communication (the medium and commerce), does not exist, or hardly exists.' Stempkovsky, by taking us from a world of sales and deliveries to a world of guilt and repentance, seems to remain firmly in the realm of the existent, however skillfully he manages to trace its hollowness.

Donal Foreman



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The Delivery Guy (Raznoschik)

Filmkrant #351, February 2013

Slow Criticism 2013

Titelindex


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D

D'Ardennen
D.O.A.P. (DEATH OF A PRESIDENT)
DA MO FANG
THE DA VINCI CODE
DAAR IN DAT LAND (V TOJ STRANJE)
DADDY AND PAPA
DADDY DAY CARE
Daddy's Home
DAENS
Een dag in 't jaar (Margot Schaap over)
DE DAG VAN DE WANHOOP
DAGEN ZONDER LIEF
Daglicht
THE DAILY NATION
DAINIPPONJIN
DAKOTA
DAL DER ZUCHTEN
DALECARLIANS
DAM STREET
DAMAGE
DAMIAAN
THE DAMNED
Damsels in Distress
DAN IN REAL LIFE
DANCE FLICK
DANCE ME TO MY SONG
DANCE OF DUST (RAKHS-E-KHAK)
DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES
DANCE OF THE WIND
DANCE WITH ME
Dancer
DANCER IN THE DARK
THE DANCER UPSTAIRS
Dancing Arabs
DANCING DREAMS
DANGER: DIABOLIK
THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS
A Dangerous Method
DANGEROUS MINDS
The Danish Girl
Danny Collins
Dans la maison
DANS LA VIE
DANS VOOR HET LEVEN
DANS, GROZNY DANS (THE DAMNED AND THE SACRED)
LA DANSE — LE BALLET DE L'OPÉRA DE PARIS
Dansen op de vulkaan
La danseuse
La danseuse (Stéphanie Di Giusto en Soko over)
DANTE'S PEAK
DARATT
DAREDEVIL
THE DARJEELING LIMITED
THE DARK
DARK BLUE
DARK CITY
DARK HORSE
The Dark Horse (James Napier Robertson over)
DARK IS RISING
THE DARK KNIGHT
The Dark Knight Rises
Dark Places
Dark Skies
DARK WATER
DARK WATER
DARKDRIVE
The Darkest Hour
DARKNESS
DARKNESS IN TALLINN
DARWIN'S NIGHTMARE
DARWINS VERSTEKELING. BEAGLE, IN HET KIELZOG VAN DARWIN
DATE MOVIE
DATE NIGHT
The Daughter
Daughters of Malakeh
DAVE
DAWN OF THE DEAD
DAWN OF THE DEAD
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW
THE DAY I BECAME A WOMAN
THE DAY I WILL NEVER FORGET
DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT
DAY OF THE DEAD
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
THE DAY THE SUN TURNED COLD
The Day Will Come
DAYBREAK
DAYBREAKERS
DAYLIGHT
THE DAYS
THE DAYTRIPPERS
Dazed and Confused
DE BATTRE MON COEUR S'EST ARRÊTÉ
DE FORCE AVEC D'AUTRES
De rouille et d'os
DE-LOVELY
Dead Body Welcome
THE DEAD GIRL
DEAD LEAVES
DEAD MAN
THE DEAD MAN 2: RETURN OF THE DEAD MAN
Dead Man Down
DEAD MAN WALKING
DEAD MAN'S SHOES
DEAD PRESIDENTS
Deadfall
Deadly Virtues: Love.Honor.Obey
Deadpool
The Deal
Deal
DEALING AND WHEELING IN SMALL ARMS
DEAR FRANKIE
DEAR JOHN
DEAR WENDY
Dear White People
DEAR ZACHARY: A LETTER TO A SON ABOUT HIS FATHER
DEATH AND THE MAIDEN
DEATH AT A FUNERAL
DEATH BECOMES HER
DEATH RACE
DEATH SENTENCE
DEATH TO SMOOCHY
Débarquement immédiat
The Debt
THE DEBT COLLECTOR
IL DECAMERON
DECEPTION
DECK THE HALLS
DECONSTRUCTING HARRY
DEEP BLUE
DEEP BLUE SEA
The Deep Blue Sea
THE DEEP END
Deep End (Terugzien)
DEEP IMPACT
DEEP IN THE WOODS
DEEP RISING
Deepwater Horizon
DEFIANCE
DEFINITELY, MAYBE
The Deflowering of Eva van End (Slow Crtiticism: De ontmaagding van Eva van End)
Dégradé
DEINING
DÉJÀ VU
Dekalog
DEKALOOG
DELBARAN
La délicatesse
DÉLITS FLAGRANTS
Deliver Us From Evil
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
THE DELIVERY
The Delivery Guy (Raznoschik)
Delivery Man
DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE
DELTA
DEMAIN DES L'AUBE
Demain tout commence
DEMOLITIAN MAN
Demolition (Jean-Marc Vallée over)
DEMON KNIGHT
DENISE CALLS UP
DENKEND AAN HOLLAND
DENNIS HOPPER: THE DECISIVE MOMENTS
DENNIS P.
DENNIS THE MENACE
THE DEPARTED
DEPARTMENT 36
DEPARTURES
DERECHO DE FAMILIA aka FAMILY LAW
Le dernier coup de marteau
DES HOMMES ET DES DIEUX
The Descendants
THE DESCENT
Desde allá
DESERT FLOWER
IL DESERTO ROSSO
DESI
El Desierto
DESMOND EN HET MOERASMONSTER
Despair
DESPERADO
DESPERATE MEASURES
DESPERATE REMEDIES
DESPERAUX: DE DAPPERE MUIS
DESPICABLE ME
Despicable me 2
Después de Lucía
LES DESTINÉES SENTIMENTALES
DESTINY TURNS ON THE RADIO
DESTRICTED
Detachment
DETROIT ROCK CITY
DEUCE BIGALOW MALE GIGOLO
DEUCE BIGALOW: AMERICAN GIGOLO
Deux jours, une nuit
DEVIL
The Devil Inside
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
DEVIL'S ADVOCATE
The Devil's Double
Devil's Knot
THE DEVIL'S MINER
THE DEVIL'S OWN
THE DEVIL'S REJECTS
DEVILS ON THE DOORSTEP
Dheepan (Jacques Audiard over)
EL DIA DE LA BESTIA
DIABOLIQUE
LA DIABOLIQUES
DIALOGUE AVEC MON JARDINIER
DIALOOGOEFENING NO.1: STAD
DIAMONDS OF THE NIGHT
Diana
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel
Diary of a Teenage Girl
DIARY OF A TIMES SQUARE THIEF
DIARY OF THE DEAD
DICK
The Dictator
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS
DIE ANOTHER DAY
DIE HARD 4.0
DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE
Die laatste zomer
DIEF!
Diego Star
DIEP
DIFFERENT CINEMA VOLUME 3
DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS
Difret (Zeresenay Mehari over)
Dikkertje Dap
THE DILEMMA
UN DIMANCHE A KIGALI
Het diner
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS
DINOSAUR
Dior and I
Diplomatie (Volker Schlöndorff over)
DIRTY DANCING 2
DIRTY DIARIES
Dirty Grandpa
DIRTY MIND
DIRTY PRETTY THINGS
DIS-MOI QUE JE RÊVE
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Disappearing Landscape
DISASTER MOVIE
DISCLOSURE
DISCO PIGS
THE DISCOVERY OF HEAVEN
LES DISEURS DE VÉRITÉ
DISGRACE
DISNEY'S TARZAN
DISTANCE
La distancia
THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN
THE DISTRICT
DISTRICT 9
DISTURBIA
DIVA DOLOROSA
Divergent
The Divergent Series: Allegiant
Divergent Series: Insurgent
The Divide
DIVINE INTERVENTION
DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD
DIVINE TRASH
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
Il DIVO
DIVORCING JACK
Django
Django Unchained
DO NOT DISTURB
Do Not Disturb
The Do-Deca-Pentathlon
DOBERMANN
Doctor Strange
DODGEBALL
DOG SOLDIERS
DOGMA
DOGTOOTH
DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS
DOGVILLE
DOGVILLE CONFESSIONS
Dokter Pulder zaait papavers
DOKTOR MABUSE, DER SPIELER
IL DOLCE E L'AMARO
Dolfje Weerwolfje
De dolle tweeling
De dolle tweeling 2
De dolle tweeling 3
DOLLS
DOLORES CLAIBORNE
Dom/The House
DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE
DE DOMINEE
DOMINO
The Domino Effect
DOMWEG GELUKKIG
DON
DON
Don Jon
DON'S PLUM
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Don't Breathe
DON'T COME KNOCKING
DON'T LOOK BACK
DON'T LOOK NOW
DON'T SAY A WORD
DON'T STOP THE SHOW
DONDERBROEK
DONKEY PUNCH
DONNIE BRASCO
DONNIE DARKO
IL DONO
DOOD EIND
DOOD IN VENETIË
Doodslag
DOOM
THE DOOM GENERATION
DOOMSDAY
DOOR DE WIND GEJAAGD (EL VIENTO SE LLEVO LO QUE)
DOOR IN THE FLOOR
THE DOORS: WHEN YOU'RE STRANGE
Dope
DOPO MEZZANOTTE
LA DOPPIA ORA
Dorsvloer vol confetti
DOS CRIMINES
Dos disparos
DOSSIER K.
The Double
The Double
DOUBLE JEOPARDY
Double Play (Ernest Dickerson over)
DOUBLE TAKE
DOUBLE TEAM
DOUBLE WHAMMY
DOUBLE YOU STREET
DOUBT
DOUCHES FROIDES
DOUG'S 1E FILM
DOWN
DOWN PERISCOPE
DOWN TO EARTH
DOWN TO YOU
DOWN WITH LOVE
DR. AKAGI
DR. DOLITTLE
DR. DOLITTLE 2
Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
DR. T AND THE WOMAN
DRACULA (1931)
DRACULA 2000
Dracula Untold
DRAG ME TO HELL
DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY
DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION
DRAGONFLY
DRAGONHEART
DRAKENHEUVEL
DRAKENJAGERS
DRAMA/MEX
Dream House
DREAMCATCHER
DREAMER: MIJN DROOMPAARD
THE DREAMERS
DREAMING BY NUMBERS
A DREAMSCAPE, GAMBLING IN AMERICA
Dredd 3D
DREI
DE DRIE BESTE DINGEN IN HET LEVEN
Drie dvd's met films van Maya Deren
DE DRIE MUSKETIERS
DE DRIE ROVERS
DRIFT
Drift
DRIFTING CLOUDS
DRIJFZAND
DRILLBIT TAYLOR
Drinking Buddies
Drive
DRIVE ANGRY 3D
DRIVEN
DRÔLE DE FÉLIX
Droom & daad
DE DROOM VAN DE BEER
DROOMLAND DDR
The Drop
DROP DEAD GORGEOUS
DROP ZONE
DROPOUTS
DROWNING MONA
Drug War
THE DUCHESS
DUDE, WHERE IS MY CAR?
DUE AMICI
DUE DATE
THE DUEL PROJECT
DUIMELIJNTJE
The Duke of Burgundy (Maria Rohm over)
THE DUKES OF HAZZARD
Dukhtar
DUMB AND DUMBER
Dumb and Dumber To
DUMB AND DUMBERER: WHEN HARRY MET LLOYD
DUMBLAND
Dummie de Mummie
Dummie de Mummie en de Sfinx van Shakaba
Dummy Jim
DUMPLINGS
Dunderklumpen
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
DE DUNNING BROERS
DUNSTON CHECKS IN
DUNYA & DESIE IN MAROKKO
DUPLEX
DUPLICITY
Durak (The Fool)
DUSKA
Dying of the Light
DYING TO GO HOME